Sunday, December 25, 2016

Week 16 NFL Notes

As a long-time Packer fan whose first cognizant memories of the team date back to Bart Starr’s final years, I can’t tell you how annoyed I get when I see these young kids here in the state of Washington parading around in Packer gear, especially after a Packer victory. If the Seahawks had not face-planted against the Packers a few weeks ago, would they be strutting around with smirks on their faces? Maybe their parents migrated from Wisconsin, but I suspect that most are “bandwagon” fans. If the Packers were as bad as they used to be, these phonies would no doubt be bandwagon Seahawk fans.

And I have my memories of the bad old days. Starr was drafted out of the University of Alabama, and the Packers hoped that Scott Hunter would follow in his footsteps to continued glory. He certainly started off promisingly. Although he threw 17 interceptions to only 7 touchdowns as a rookie for a 46 QB rating, he did win four of ten starts; in his second season, with the help of rookie running back John Brockington and the NFL’s leading scorer, kicker Chester Marcol, the Packers had a 10-4 record and a division title—despite the fact Hunter completed only 43 percent of his passes, averaging barely six completed passes a game. But he lasted only one more year with the Packers and was out of the league a few years later. Brockington had three seasons in which he gained over a thousand yards, and then flamed out. Marcol didn’t turn out to be a “franchise” kicker like Jan Stenerud, but he did end his Packer career on a “high” note in 1980: Marcol, who admitted to being high on cocaine before the game, caught the ball on his own blocked field goal attempt against the Bears in overtime and ran it in for the winning score. 

The Packers thought they’d found a “gem” in Jerry Tagge, who won a national championship with Nebraska. He was 6-6 as a starter over three seasons, but had only 3 TD passes to 17 interceptions and a 44 career passer rating. The Packers continued to lose even with “tested” veterans like John Hadl, and Starr tried his hand at head coach without much success. In 1978, Terdell Middleton gained 1,116 yards to lead the Packers to a rare post-Lombardi winning season; he gained 932 yards the remainder of his 7 year career. Quarterback Lynn Dickey was the Packers first legitimate thrower, reminding some people of his idol, Joe Namath; unfortunately he imitated all of Namath’s bad habits. He was exciting to watch when he was healthy—which was rare—even when he was flinging the ball with abandon into opponents arms. From 1983 to 1985 the Packers did finish 2nd in the NFC Central—and not a winning record in any of them (8-8 each year). 

Don Majkowski didn’t do much until his third season in 1989, when he led the Packers to their first double-digit victory total in 17 years, but still missed the playoffs. He didn’t do much after that season either, and he clearly could not get a grip on Mike Holmgren’s West Coast offense when the new coach arrived in 1992; while “Majik” completed 38 of 55 passes in three games, they went for only 271 yards. He then broke his leg against the Bengals, and some guy named Brett Favre stepped in, and the rest was “history”—although I suspect for these bandwagon Packer fans, even Favre is “ancient” news.


Packers 38 Vikings 25 The Packers clinched at least a chance to win the NFC North with this victory; next week’s showdown with the Lions will determine that, regardless of the outcome of what the Lions do this week, since the Packers beat them earlier in the season. One can now safely say that Aaron Rodgers’ resurgence can be in part due to Jordy Nelson fully recovering from last season’s injury and year-long layoff. After a start in which it seemed that Nelson was more a liability, he is now on pace to have one of his best seasons. Rodgers completed 28 passes to give him 374 on the year, a new team record.

Eagles 24 Giants 19 The Giants played like a comedy film that tries too hard to be funny. Some jokes hit, but just as many miss. The Giants ran 88 plays to the Eagles 55, went up and down the field with abandon, mainly via 63 Eli Manning passes, but scored only one touchdown in five red zone appearances. Unlike the Giants, the Eagles did take advantage of their opportunities, only failing to put the game away on a fourth-down play at the Giants one. 

Raiders 33 Colts 25 The Raiders manage to stave-off another Andrew Luck late-game comeback attempt, but they lost Derek Carr to injury, likely for the remainder of the season. If this sounds familiar, it should: last season the Bengals were one of the hottest teams in the league nearing the playoffs until Andy Dalton was knocked out for the season, and the Bengals were forced to start A.J. McCarron in the playoffs. They lost to the Steelers 18-16 in the Wild Card game. 

Saints 31 Buccaneers 24 Sandwiched in between two Jameis Winston interceptions in the second half were four touchdowns and a field goal on consecutive drives. Winston seems to have issues with throwing the ball more than ten yards down the field. At 8-7, the Buccaneers no longer seem to be a playoff threat.

Dolphins 34 Bills 31 (OT) Both teams combined for a mindboggling 533 yards rushing; although the Dolphins Jay Ajayi had another 200-yard performances, the Bills not only had more team rushing yards, but out-passed them as well, 317 to 233. The Bills gained 589 total yards and had no turnovers, but two missed field goals and a turnover on downs cost them. Matt Moore won his second straight start for the Dolphins, again calling into question the reasons why the Dolphins decided that Ryan Tannehill was going to be their “franchise” quarterback when he really isn’t “better” than Moore.

Patriots 41 Jets 3 The Jets giveth, and the Patriots taketh, which was pretty much the story of this game. If you are going to make it that easy, don’t be surprised if Belichick/ Brady will happily make you look like a fool.

Jaguars 38 Titans 17 A game removed from the firing of their coach, the Jaguars played like they were not confused about what they were supposed to do with the ball, at least for this one game. Marcus Mariota did not play well before he was knocked out for the season, but at least he can say he, like Winston,  that overall he improved in his second seasons. 

Browns 20 Chargers 17 Even with Melvin Gordon missing his second straight game from injury, the Chargers felt they could take advantage of one the worst rushing defenses in the league; they gained a pitiful 34 yards on 18 carries as a team. Robert Griffin III managed to help the Browns outscore the Chargers before he was knocked out of the game. I’m not sure Browns fans take much comfort in this victory; a 1-15 team is a lot less interesting than an 0-16 team.

Redskins 41 Bears 21 Every time the Bears were threatening to make this game competitive, Matt Barkley threw an interception, and another, and another—five, all told. That’s what happens when you get too cocky after throwing for 362 yards against the Packers last week. He also threw three interceptions that possibly accounted for that loss as well.

Falcons 33 Panthers 16 The Falcons clinched the NFC South title, while Cam Newton finally admitted his play could be “better” after another sub-50 percent passing performance. Newton has completed less than half of his passes in 5 of the last six games. But then again, “accuracy” in anything hasn’t been his strong suit.

49ers 22 Rams 21 The 49ers finally win a game; the Rams gained only 177 total yards, yet probably should have won it. Rams defensive players were quick to say afterwards that Colin Kaepernick’s play was nothing “special”—although it was compared to Jared Goffs’—complaining about “questionable” penalties that helped keep 49er drives alive, particularly the game-winning one. Despite the loss, at least the Rams can take heart that the 49ers have already clinched last place in the NFC West.

Cardinals 34 Seahawks 31 In a relatively staid game with the Cardinals up 14-10 in Seattle, it should have been expected that the Seahawks would add a late touchdown to win the game. But the fourth quarter saw both defenses “rest” their cases, with a total of seven scores in the quarter, the last a game-winning field goal as time expired on a drive that started on the Cardinals’ 25 with exactly 60 seconds to play. The Seahawks are now in jeopardy of losing the second-seed to the Falcons, and losing Tyler Lockett for the season won’t help the team’s moribund offense.

Steelers 31 Ravens 27 The Steelers win the AFC North after a back-and-fourth offensive display by both teams in the second half, with the Steelers winning improbably in the final minute after the Ravens scored the apparent game-winning touchdown.

Texans 12 Bengals 10 Tom Savage was, well, not good through the first three quarters of this game, but he didn't need to be. The Bengals are a team that should be better than most of the teams they play, but just can't make "that" play when they need to--like the missed field goal to win it at the end of this game.

Chiefs 33 Broncos 10 Do you know that Alex Smith has a 59-25-1 record as a starter in the past six seasons? In fact, he was having his best season statistically when he was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick--which got the 49ers a Super Bowl appearance and not much else. Smith still has that "game manager" label on him, and even after a 30-0 victory in the last season's Wild Card round and a just seven-point loss to the Patriots in the Divisional round, he still has a lot to "prove." Trevor Siemian has only gotten worse as the season has progressed; and the Broncos cut Mark Sanchez, the "presumed" starter, for this? And John Elway is supposed to be a "genius" for dumping Brock Osweiler for this guy?

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